Israel asks Putin to fight Iranian, Syrian fascism
Israeli President Shimon Peres yesterday urged visiting Russian President Valdimir Putin to help avert the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and stop the bloodshed in Syria.
Putin's trip to Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan is seen as an effort to increase Russia's clout in the region at a time when the West and some Arab nations have criticised Moscow's opposition to their efforts to force out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"I am certain that Russia, which smote fascism, will not allow similar threats - not an Iranian threat and not Syrian bloodshed," Peres said at a ceremony in the central Israeli city of Netanya, where Putin dedicated a monument to the Red Army's battles against Nazi Germany.
Israeli officials said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intended to discuss Iran and Syria with Putin at a meeting later in the day in Jerusalem.
Putin's visit began one day after the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi was declared the winner of Egypt's presidential election, an outcome that has also raised Israeli concern.
Israeli cabinet minister Dan Meridor urged Russia to back further sanctions against Iran to curb a uranium enrichment programme that Israel and the West believe is aimed at developing atomic weapons.
"I hope Russia joins the sanctions regime, which would greatly enhance it," Meridor said in a speech before Putin arrived.
Russia, along with the US, China, Britain, France and Germany, has been holding talks with Iran to ensure that it does not develop nuclear weapons, and hosted inconclusive talks with Teheran last week.
But Russia takes a softer tack than the Western nations, opposing further sanctions against Iran and urging Israel not to attack its nuclear sites. Putin has said Russia has no proof that Teheran is trying to become a nuclear-armed power.
In the Syrian conflict, Russia has brushed aside US and Arab calls to stop sending weapons to the Syrian government, saying it supplies only defensive arms. It has also used its veto power in the UN Security Council to defend Syria.
Assad has helped Russia keep a foothold in the Middle East by buying billions of dollars worth of weapons and hosting a maintenance facility for the Russian navy. The Syrian facility is Russia's only permanent warm-water port outside the former Soviet Union.